Brought to you by Good Health magazine
Some seemingly innocuous health habits can pose a threat to your heart. Here the experts explain how you can use this knowledge to protect your most vital organ. By Helen Foster.
You know smoking and too much saturated fat and salt are bad for your heart, but here we reveal nine surprising ways you could be raising your risk of heart disease. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.
Eating a vegan diet
A diet containing no animal fat sounds like it should be super healthy, but research from China's Zhejiang University has shown it might actually raise heart disease risk. The reason is vegan diets often lack the heart-protecting nutrients omega-3 and B12 found in oily fish and red meat. So what if you're vegan or simply don't eat a lot of oily fish or red meat?
"Some vegan foods like soy milks and meat analogues are fortified with B12," says Brisbane dietitian Amanda Benham, "but I recommend all vegetarians and vegans play it safe by taking a B12 supplement of either 100mcg in a daily multivitamin or at least 10mcg as part of a daily B supplement. With omega-3, one option is to eat ground flaxseeds or a little flaxseed oil each day. Vegan-friendly omega-3 supplements from algae are also available."
Having unprotected sex
Untreated chlamydia is well known as potential fertility harmer, but scientists in Canada have also linked it to inflammation that can damage the heart. On top of this, though, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked infection with the strains of the HPV virus that cause cervical cancer to
heart issues as well.
"While we're not certain if there is a cause and effect relationship between the two, there is a clear-cut association," says Dr Ken Fujise from the University of Texas Medical Branch. It's possible that these strains of HPV switch off a gene called P53 that helps keep atherosclerosis, the furring of the arteries that leads to heart disease, under control. Your GP can test for both chlamydia and HPV.
Not visiting the dentist
New research seems to indicate keeping healthy teeth clean may help lower your risk of heart disease. Work by Dr Emily Chen from Taipei Veterans General Hospital found that people who had their teeth professionally scaled at least once a year had a 24 per cent lower risk of heart disease than those who hadn't had a clean.
"Good dental hygiene protects the heart," she says. "It's possible oral bacteria in the mouth may cause a mild form of inflammation that increases the risk of arterial plaque formation, therefore raising risk of heart attack and stroke."
Binning the skin
You might think you're avoiding pesticides and other nasties, but the peel of an apple contains a substance called ursolic acid that has been shown to lower cholesterol and other heart-harming fats in the blood, say US researchers. Wash them instead. You'll also find the wonder acid in prunes, cranberries, and herbs like basil and thyme.
For the full story, see the July issue of Good Health. Subscribe to Good Health and receive a FREE La Mav Intense Moisture Nightly Repair Nectar, valued at $69.95.